Notes from a rough-start vacation

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You know your family had a good vacation when remnants of it stay with your kids long after you’ve come home.

In our case, we were eating dinner on our enclosed back porch the other night when Lily started singing several of the songs she’s learned at U-M’s Camp Michigania, near Petoskey. (The songs almost always begin, “This is a repeat-after-me song!” since the kids are often being marched to various areas of the camp). Neve joined in, singing the every-other-word or so that she remembered, and Joe and I provided back-up.

It was dorky fun, and made us all remember the week that the kids spent playing at the beach, making tie-dye shirts, and getting the occasional boat and horsey ride (plus, in Lily’s case, squeezing some archery and art projects in); Joe and I, meanwhile, spent the week napping, going for runs together, and reading (plus, in my case, attending daily yoga classes, trying archery, attending a late-night astronomy talk, and getting a massage). Ahhhh.

I so, so appreciate these trips to Michigania – we’ve gone annually these last 5 years – because what parents with small kids desperately want, more than anything, is a vacation from parenting.

But that’s like trying to escape yourself by way of travel. Guess what? You can’t ever really do that.

But you CAN hand your kiddos off for a few hours each morning and afternoon for one week while they happily play with other kids and counselors.

And that’s a glorious, glorious thing.

Here are a few notes, good and bad, from this year’s trip. Continue reading

Advertisements

Making peace with the egg: Accepting my postpartum, post-40 body

rippedpantsA few weeks ago, I had a “wardrobe malfunction” – but it was way, WAY less sexy than the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl nip slip.

No, my clothing mishap involved a pair of body-hugging capri pants that pre-dated my first pregnancy.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Yes, when flopping down into my chair at work one morning, I felt the pants’ seam strain – maybe even rip a little. But I happened to also be wearing a long, lightweight cardigan that day, so I thought, “Well, even if there’s a small tear, I’m covered. And maybe I can fix it.”

But then, later in the day, after going to get a carryout meal for a friend recovering from back surgery, I heard (and felt) a more decisive rip occur up my backside as I climbed into my Fiesta.

Oops. (Thank God for that cardigan, because I still had the meal to drop off, and I also wanted to chat a bit with my housebound friend. Which I did.)

Upon arriving home, I lifted the cardigan and looked over my shoulder at my dresser mirror, assessing the damage: my underwear was visible in a straight line down my backside.

So I took off the pants, wadded them up, and threw them in the trash.

And that was it.

No tears, no gnashing of teeth, no dark night of the soul, no impulsive pronouncements of dieting. Just acceptance that I no longer have exactly the same body I did before I had children, and before I turned 40. Continue reading

In a world of pure imagination

I recently had the chance to review the stage musical adaptation of “Mary Poppins,” so I took 4 year old Lily, who – other than wondering when, after two and a half hours, it was going to end (she wasn’t alone) – enjoyed the show a good deal. But during intermission, she asked me, “How did Mary Poppins fly?”

In the few seconds I had to consider my answer options, I bypassed my knee-jerk compunction to tell the truth (I always thought I’d be that “Miracle on 34th Street” mom) and opted instead for a far more open-ended response.

“I don’t know, sweetie. What do you think?”

When Lily looked puzzled, I added, “Well, she had her umbrella up. Maybe a strong wind swept her up into the air?”

Lily nodded and said, “Yeah. Maybe it was the wind.” But she didn’t sound wholly sold.

And indeed, a few weeks later, out of nowhere, she said, “I think Mary Poppins flew on strings.”

“Oh – you do? What kind of strings?”

“On her dress,” she said, like she’d been thinking about this a while and had finally settled the matter.

“You might be right,” I said, telling myself that because we were sitting close to the stage, the wires were pretty visible.

But then some other part of me thought, with a little sense of disappointment, “Oh, God, I’m raising a Mini-me.” Continue reading

When did my escape become another chore?

In the first months of this year, I found myself covering a lot of evening events for work, doing a little travel, and struggling to work doctor’s appointments and tests (because of the pregnancy) into already full-to-bursting days.

How I’ve been feeling lately

Because of all this, I got out of the habit of going to Monday night rehearsals for the local community band I’ve played in these past few years, wanting to make sure I spent as many evenings with Lily as I could. 

“No big deal,” I thought. “I’ll start going to rehearsals again when things get back to normal.”

When my evening schedule lightened, the band was in final preparations for two concerts, so that didn’t really seem like the right time to go back, either. I thus continued with my hiatus, telling myself that I’d simply give myself a couple of more weeks off.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I had a light reviewing week, and the band’s concerts had just happened.

Yet when the moment arrived for me to leave our house for rehearsal, I didn’t go.

I felt kind of guilty, and more than a bit lame, questioning why I could no longer work up the gumption to go to what had previously been an important regular escape for me.

For I’ve played trombone since I was 11, and in many ways, this ridiculous little hobby has been a boon to me. So many of my longtime friends, as well as my husband, came into my life as a direct result of my playing this bulky, awkward instrument. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed playing in groups and making music, even if it’s at a less-than-professional level.

I’d played in the local community band for a year or two before getting pregnant with Lily, attending rehearsals and playing concerts until shortly before her arrival. (I wondered then, as I do while pregnant again now, what the trombone sounds like from the inside of my body. It must be bizarre – but really, what wouldn’t be bizarre while packed into someone’s stomach?)

As I remember it, I returned to the band at about the time my maternity leave ended. In that moment, I often felt harried and overwhelmed by my new motherhood, and the adjustment back to work presented its own challenges. So playing in the band was a small gesture toward turning back toward the familiar, and the person I’d always thought of myself as being.

For those two hours every Monday night, this worked almost exactly as I had hoped. Joe had encouraged me to claim that time for myself, and I slowly began to feel like myself again – or, at least, like something other than a constantly exhausted milk machine. Which was progress. Continue reading